Smell Training for Post COVID19 Anosmia

The pandemic is far from over and it’s been hitting closer and closer to home. But as aromatherapists, I guess we’ve always held on to our oils as a supportive healing modality amidst all this chaos.

I had a client who exhibited symptoms earlier this July. His profile is a 36yo male, relatively healthy but has a sedentary lifestyle, had his first vaccine shot already, but he lost his sense of smell, reduced sense of taste, had runny nose, and itchy throat. He never had fever but felt under the weather for 2 days prior exhibiting anosmia. Since the symptoms were mild, he took it upon himself to self isolate for 14+ days and, in that course, I had prepared these inhalers to start his Smell Training.

What is Smell Training?

‘Smell Training’ involves sniffing at least four different odors twice a day every day for a period of days or even months to strengthen their sense of smell–in this case, to help bring it back. The idea of this olfactory therapy was first written about by Thomas Hummel, a German psychologist, who, in 2009, developed this technique in which patients inhale four essential oils (rose, lemon, clove, and eucalyptus), chosen to represent four different odor categories (floral/flowery, fruity, spicy, and resinous/ethereal), for 10 seconds twice daily for 12 weeks to help rebuild their sense of smell.

Since I have all the oils used by Dr Hummel, I decided to stick with the original protocol and gave it to my client. At that time, my client has lost his sense of smell for about 4 days already. I carefully instructed him to pass each inhaler tube under his nose and try to imagine or detect the smell. You need not inhale deeply per scent as you need to let the chemical compounds and scent linger on your olfactory receptors (in your nose) versus letting it go straight in your lungs (as to when you’re inhaling). I asked him to do this 3 times a day for 10-15 seconds per inhaler tube.

If you don’t have all the oils mentioned in the original protocol, you can substitute them for as long as they belong to the similar category. If all else fails, you can use your patient’s favorite cologne or perfume. The key here is to use scents that the patient is well aware of–or a scent that’s highly familiar to the patient–as he/she needs to use his/her cognitive memory to remember the scent.

Why is remembering important?

This is what I find that’s truly amazing. You don’t realize how much smell and memory connect with each other. This structured smelling protocol works by stimulating the inherent regenerative capacity of our olfactory system. The idea is to help recovery through neuroplasticity–the brain’s own ability to reorganize itself to compensate for a change or injury by forming new neural connections. So when you stimulate your sense of smell, it’s easier for your brain to adapt in forming new neurons and neuronal connections to replace the damaged ones. Stimulating the brain strengthens existing neural structures and further adds fuel to the brain’s capacity to remain adaptive.

Going back to my client, he was able to regain his sense of smell in as short as 4 days from the first day he started the Smell Training. Then he has fully regained his sense of smell after 2 more days.

Did you know that you can use Smell Training to help those who have cognitive decline especially for those who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? Watch the video I made about this here.

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